Super Sunday is more the domain of England’s Premier League but this weekend there will be a real hope of something special going into the Scottish League Cup semi-finals.
Original plans to stage both games at Hampden Park on the same day were, mercifully, scrapped. It means Hearts will face Celtic at Murrayfield at 1.30pm before Aberdeen and Rangers lock horns back at the National Stadium in Glasgow from 4.30pm.
Two high-octane battles are surely in store and the betting is arguably underestimating the perceived underdogs.
Celtic win and both to score @ 39/20
Hearts are leaders in the Scottish Premiership after 10 games by six points. The Jambos have lost only once and have already beaten champions Celtic at Tynecastle. The previous four games between these two have been shared (two wins apiece) and so it is perhaps a shock to find Hearts are 9/2 to win in 90 minutes.
Of course, Brendan Rodgers has won six domestic trophies in Scotland since taking charge of Celtic and it would still be a surprise if his Bhoys are turned over in the semi, but it is far from inconceivable.
It has to be noted that Celtic appear to be waking from their early season slumber, with 10 goals scored in their previous two domestic games.
They were most impressive, in an attacking sense, last weekend in the 4-2 win over Hibernian, with Tom Rogic once again starting to make things happen. The ‘Wizard of Oz’ loves a goal on the big occasion and is worth a look in the goalscorer markets, where he is 23/4 to score first.
Hearts came up shy against Rangers recently when the pressure was on and, while Craig Levein’s side will put it up to Celtic, the league leaders may come up just short of the try-line at Murrayfield.
James Tavernier to score anytime @ 51/20
This one certainly should be feisty – with red cards issued in four of the last six meetings (honours even, two per team). Derek McInnes has admitted that Aberdeen need to raise the levels of what they have been doing this season to get a positive result and it is hard to disagree.
The Dons haven’t won any of the last five meetings and in August at Pittodrie they needed a last-ditch leveller from Bruce Anderson to nick a 1-1 draw against a Rangers side that had played with only 10 men following Alfredo Morelos’ departure in the 12th minute.
McInnes and his troops have been, over three seasons, the second-best team in Scotland but they didn’t secure any silverware – repeatedly foiled by Celtic at the final hurdle. This season is strongly suggesting the moment has gone for Aberdeen, and it will certainly look that way if they leave Hampden beaten on Sunday.
Steven Gerrard, meanwhile, will feel that winning this game can rubber-stamp a pleasing first few months as Rangers boss, giving him a tilt at silverware next month.
Picking a best bet here is tough, as it is hard to have major faith in Aberdeen right now, despite a decent effort in defeat against Hearts last week.
Rangers will get about their opponents in the final third and, such has been the ill-discipline in this fixture, a penalty award wouldn’t be a shock. The Rangers skipper is on spot-kick duties and has a strong conversion record. Tavernier is also 31/4 to score the opener, as he did at Pittodrie in August.
For all that the logic suggests Rangers and Celtic will come through these games, it has been a different sort of season in Scotland already and, at a massive price of 23/1, it could be worthwhile backing the Aberdeen/Hearts double on Sunday.
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